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Subject Shall Remain Anonymous E-catalogue

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The team behind Give Art bring you their inaugural exhibition as Give Art Space, featuring new works from artists Ahmad Zakii Anwar (MY), Hoang Duong Cam (VN), Nipan Oranniwesna (TH) and works from Ang Soo Koon (SG), Vincent Leow (SG), Jeremy Sharma (SG), Mella Jaarsma (INA), Maya Munoz (PH), Bea Camacho (PH), Donna Ong (SG) and Adam Lee (AUS). Taking as its point of departure a portrait by Doris Duke of a beautiful but anonymous teenager, completed in 1955, this exhibition traces anonymity not only as portraiture, but as a series of guises that shifts our expectations of the uncanny, the strange, and the unfamiliar. This exhibition is held offsite at [email protected], Tanjong Pagar Distrikpark 01-25, 39 Keppel Road, Singapore. curated by Jason Wee

Text of Subject Shall Remain Anonymous E-catalogue

SUBJECT SHALL REMAIN ANONYMOUScatalogfinal3003.indd 1 3/31/2012 8:40:24 AM

SUBJECT SHALL REMAIN ANONYMOUS4 April to 28 April 2012 ANG Sookoon Ahmad Zakii ANWAR Ba CAMACHO HOANG DUONG Cam Mella JAARSMA Adam LEE Vincent LEOW Maya MUOZ Donna ONG Nipan ORANNIWESNA Jeremy SHARMA and Doris DUKEcurated by Jason WEE

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Subject Shall Remain Anonymousby Jason Wee This exhibition started with a mystery. T X X X The gallerist Tolla Sloane showed me a painting by Doris Duke, a commercial portraitist who worked in Malaya and died in Singapore in 1967, who was also Tollas grandmother. T . The portrait Girl in Pink was finished in 1955 for an exhibition for the Women Artists of Malaya group, which included Georgette Chen among others. The Malay girl in the painting was not named in any of the exhibition documents in Tollas possession, and though we suspected that some of the other artists in that exhibition may have painted the same teenage model, we could not find her likeness elsewhere, at least not in what we saw of Chens and her contemporaries paintings from those years. She remained a nameless cipher for the ambitions of others, yet I was unwilling to relinquish the sense I had from seeing her face that her anonymity could be more than a condition of an unequal relationship between artist and model, but could be an assortment of guises that retain some measure of secrecy in order to individuate the subject and provide the subject with a sense of agency. The undecipherable hiddenness that anonymity provides can also mark any newly emerging identities as differentiated and distinctly real. The asymmetries of power that will render a person or subject anonymous are not unique to the artist studio, especially not in a city like ours. It is a city where the bureaucratese audience development and public education take on ambivalent shades, where the audience and the public are considered amiably compliant recipients of precast agendas. The aim of education and development is to ensure a wider distribution of ready information, and to educate the public on the conditions of their agreement. The audience and the public matter only in this regard; any mutual antagonism between public and public is elided, much less any contestation between the state and these publics. Distinctions between one public and another and between one individual voice and the next - are softened into the ambivalent anonymity of agreement. XXXXXX . What sets this version of anonymity apart is its sometimes violent force; anonymity as an effect of actions taken against a subject by one invested with greater authority or power. This is anonymity as something done to the subject, acts that take what is most recognizable or objectionable about the subject and diffuse or nullify those parts. W . What I am suggesting in this exhibition is a counter possibility, that when faced with this force the subject as glimpsed in the exhibition could take on that anonymity toward altogether different ends. When the anonymity maintains the trace of individuality rather than erase it, for one, or when anonymity is a sign that the subject is not completely whole or human, and therefore not quite within reach of any attempts to normalize it. Far From Normal XXX Donna Ongs drawings of fetuses are sketched from a visit to a medical museum where these preserved forms sit as examples of deformity at the early stages of life. D . Delicately outlined on paper, these figures are transformed from anatomical specimens into difficult bodies. They bear the possibility of life without life itself, an uncanny preservation of the potential to grow, to have proper names, and to identify themselves, that is at the same time a preservation of its potential for greater disfigurement. Their suspension in a nascent yet nameless stage of life draws out complex responses from us in part because this suspension catches them between the nominally and normally human. Adam Lees figures emerge from a similar zone between the not-yet- and the not-quite-human, as though various conglomerations of biomass have not only gained conscious life but have also taken humanoid form. They are less nature personified with a capital N, more hybridized swamp things, embodiments of the sometimes mythic, frequently uneasy separation between humans and their natural environments. T . That separation is always a negotiated terrain, never securely pinned in Adam Lees paintings; are these humanoids a branch of arboreal evolution, humans with the capacity for grafts of chlorophyll-rich cilia, or a version of the hipster woodsmen, all bearded and disguised in the trappings of environmental consciousness? Ang Sookoons sculptures pulls organic and inorganic material into biochemical interactions that similarly upend our recognition of growth and other living processes. Ang soaks bread loaves into saturated solutions of monoammonium phosphate, which infuses the bread and slowly hardens it. The bread takes on the appearance of petrified stone as bursts of crystalline forms appear on the surface, sometimes in jagged shrieks, sometimes in a stubbly murmur. T . Though we see growth, emergence and complexity, reworking our conventions of what these might be, these patterns of change do not confirm any recognition of organic life. The processes behind these changes operate at a molecular scale that we can justifiably call secretive; the crystals on close observation seem to belie its extension into a deeper, undecipherable core. The Undecipherable It is what is illegible in Nipan Oranniswesnas pin-pricked lyrics on paper that suggests these texts could be metonymic for the singers of their songs. Using pins, he creates bumps on the paper surface that suggest Braille, but will make little sense to Braille readers. With our eyes further away, these bumps coalesce into lines from Thai patriotic songs, yet the pinholes in the bumps continually challenge their legibility. All this on a surface that is minimally visual plain white paper with tidy rows of bumps and holes. Here is the subject conscripted to nationalism, barely detectable when our eyes pull further from the crowd, the single voice nearly undecipherable as the en-masse song floats above. Working in a grid rather than lines, Bea Camachos figures are parallel anonymous activators of language, their movements creating glyph-like shapes that, in transmission, resemble a spatial semaphore with significant variability. The individuals move to unknown choreography that is provided out-of-sight and yet - this is the works most intriguing point - not quite offscreen. The video is mirrored in such a way that suggests that the choreographer or set of instructions might be dead center, in the middle of the screen, both hidden by and alluded to by the doubling. The agent of change, though invisible, may be right in front of us. Mirroring is crucial to how we identify ourselves to ourselves, to how we realize our composition as well as our self-division; how we are a sum of parts, with different co-existing potentials to be one thing one moment, another the next. Snapshots, revelatory because they can seem so offhanded and casual, can show us that difference within the shortest flashes of time. The individual, Maya Muozs paintings suggest, appears as we shift between two quick slices of time. The figure is effaced, yet we can distinguish individuality by what holds steady between the two frames - from the choice of jeans, the confident but relaxed naked torso, the long straggly hair as well as what has changed. Yet the individuality we detect, the grasp of our own power to choose and act, may not be fully in our self-possession. Our agency may be more fragile and de-centered than we care to admit, our choices evidence of the influence of others. Hoang Duong Cams photograph is a kind of self-portrait, a image of himself as a palimpsest of his influences, a blend of images of Lenin, so prominent in Vietnamese socialist discourses, and his own. Arguably what we see in this accreted portrait is some ways more closely resembles Cam than a straight shot of his face before a camera. The individual is a shapeshifting assembly of disjunctive parts. The eyes are both his and not his. We may not, or ever have been, ourselves. X X X

Subject Shall Remain Anonymous, essay by Jason WEE The Remains of Anonymity, essay by Adele TAN Doris DUKE ANG Sookoon Ahmad Zakii ANWAR Ba CAMACHO HOANG DUONG Cam Mella JAARSMA Adam LEE Vincent LEOW Maya MUOZ Donna ONG Nipan ORANNIWESNA Jeremy SHARMA


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The Remains of Anonymityby Adele Tan Protected Autonomy If so, the heroes we celebrate as extraordinary are particularly troubled by these challenges. Instead of unique individuals who make exceptional demands of themselves, they become small if crucial plot elements of existing narratives that organizes and necessitates their actions. I want to call attention to this thread of trouble masculinity in Jeremy Sharmas paintings from his underappreciated Protection exhibition. T . They are racecar drivers, astronauts, boxers, and emergency workers, their uniforms and appearances both a sign of how their roles and actions are embedded in familiar masculine narratives, yet we consider the individuals inhabiting those roles as singularly capable of the exceptional. In these roles, these individuals are anonymous, yet their roles also mark them out as heroes. These masculinities are not exclusively the domain of men, and the converse is just as true. In an influential body of work that spans decades, Mella Jaarsmas installations and paintings have shown how veiling and other forms of partial or full body covering, so often taken as typically femin